I don’t usually start digging the grow beds until July but a Shibui Bonsai customer has been keen to learn more by volunteering to help. Jim had a couple of days off work due to wet weather so we picked a dry day and got started a week early.
Jim is younger and enthusiastic. He started on the shovel and kept me so busy pruning that I did not get any photos of the actual dig.
In a few hours we managed to dig and do a rough top and root prune on most of the larger trident maples, some Japanese maples, a few crab apples and some of the first year tridents.
They have all been ‘heeled in’ to a spare patch where they can wait until I’m ready to do a final inspection to decide if they get potted for sale, put back in the grow beds for more growth or go on the scrap heap.
Still plenty of trees to do but I have all winter so I just do a few any time I can. The trees pictured are Prunus ‘Elvins’, Hawthorn and more crab apples with a couple of Seiju elms for good measure.
The trees in the picture were all chopped and root pruned last winter so nearly all of the 2m of growth shown has emerged through last summer.
The winter solstice has come and gone and that is a prompt for me to get into the grow beds and start digging the deciduous trees. I don’t think the trees mind when I dig. I just use the solstice as a reminder to get started or I won’t have enough time to dig the beds and do whatever repotting is required in the nursery before spring.
I usually start with the root over rock trees, just because I can’t wait to see what has happened under the soil and foil wrap. Opening these is always like Christmas.
After cutting roots with a shovel I can lift the trees and shake the soil off the roots.
To make them easier to handle the long roots and long branches are pruned roughly before making any further decisions.
Now comes the moment of truth. Unwrapping the foil will reveal how well the roots have developed over these rocks. these trees have been in this bed for just one year. Note that the aluminium foil wrap is starting to deteriorate. Some have split the foil as the roots and trunk expanded during the growing season. Roots have also penetrated through the foil in a couple of places.
This is a good reason for checking every year. The closer to the surface the stronger trident roots grow. If this was left another year that escaped root would get huge and would distort the roots closer to the rock, possibly making this a dismal failure.
Now it is time to do some more detailed work on these trees. I assess the whole root/rock/trunk arrangement to find the best possible lines. At this stage I’m just looking for a trunk. branches come later.
I think the curving trunk looks far better than the straighter section so I’ll prune to remove the straight section. Pruning like this also gives some taper.
Now these are ready for potting and the start of the next phase – branches and ramification.